Current and former presidents of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen and Ma Ying-jeou, paid tribute on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the first year in which there will be no large-scale in-person commemorations on Chinese soil.
Mainland China has never allowed public remembrance of the 1989 protests which demanded political reforms and greater freedoms, and Beijing heavily censors all information relating to the event. The movement ended with a violent military crackdown on June 4, 1989 that killed hundreds or even thousands, according to some estimates.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“I believe all Taiwanese people who are proud of freedom and democracy will never forget this day in history, and will hold tighter to our convictions,” Tsai wrote.
Ma, who favours direct dialogue between Taiwan and the mainland, urged more communication in his Facebook post. He said Beijing needed to face up to history over the 1989 protests, and that would help bridge the cross-strait differences instead of the two sides drifting further apart.
He wrote that it was heartbreaking to see the breakdown in the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan, as friendly voices were drowned out in the angry rhetoric crossing the Taiwan Strait.
“Only through people on both sides … letting go of animosities can there be a future,” Ma wrote.
In Beijing on Friday, there were few signs that Tiananmen Square was in any way remarkable, as tourists in red hats and women posing with children milled about in front of the square.
It came just weeks ahead of the centenary celebrations for the ruling Chinese Communist Party and there were long lines of visitors waiting for security checks to take photos in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong that overlooks the square.
A tighter police presence was the only marker of the politically sensitive anniversary. Late on Thursday, there were several vehicles marked “military police” or “special police” along Chang’an Avenue in Beijing where Tiananmen Square is located.
On Thursday, the government announced the square would be closed from June 23 to July 1 before the party’s centenary celebrations.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that as in previous years, activists in China were forced to take “vacations” outside Beijing during the sensitive date, and movement and communication among members of the Tiananmen Mothers – who represent family members of those killed in the events of 1989 – were also restricted.
Information on the Tiananmen Square crackdown has long been heavily censored in China, with even vague mentions on Chinese social media sites promptly removed.
Xu Xibai, a researcher of civil society in China, said on Twitter he was permanently banned from the Chinese social media platform Weibo after he posted a photo of a candle and the words “Good Night” ahead of the 32nd anniversary.
According to Weiboscope, a project at the University of Hong Kong that tracks censorship on Weibo, a Twitter-like site, messages deleted on Friday include one that read: “Regarding history, no matter how you try to cover it up, you cannot erase it.”
“A date that has been banned, like a river that suddenly disappears in a desert,” another said. “If you do not forget them, the dead will germinate and blossom into flowers.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on Thursday calling for transparency around the events of June 4, including “a full accounting of all those killed, detained or missing”.
“The United States will continue to stand with the people of China as they demand that their government respect human rights,” he said. ”We honour the sacrifices of those killed 32 years ago, and the brave activists who carry on their efforts today in the face of ongoing government repression.”
This article Past and present Taiwanese presidents honour 1989 Tiananmen protests while gatherings are banned first appeared on South China Morning Post